If your home’s electrical system is well maintained, you can have confidence that the lights will come on when you flip the switch. That is, unless there’s a storm-related power outage. Or a utility blackout. Or a transformer malfunction near your home.
Unfortunately, there are several potential causes of temporary power outages. But before you can deal with problems like thawing freezers and stagnant indoor air, you need to be able to see your hand in front of your face. And that’s why it pays to keep a few high quality flashlights on hand.
Ever since LEDs became widely available and affordable, the flashlight market has exploded with new brands, designs and features. If you’re in the market for a new flashlight or two, you have plenty to consider.
Out with the Old
Even though LED flashlights are all the rage, incandescent models are still widely available. However, unless you’re looking for an extremely powerful light designed for specific applications, an LED flashlight is likely to outperform its nearest incandescent equal in two key characteristics.
First, LEDs offer greater battery efficiency. An incandescent flashlight will run continuously for about two hours on a fresh set of batteries, compared with about 90 hours with an LED flashlight. And if you think that’s a big difference, consider bulb life -- incandescent bulbs may fizzle after about six hours, but the average LED flashlight will hang in there for a whopping 50,000 hours on average.
Beam Me Up
You’ll need to choose from among a variety of shapes, sizes and weights, but the most important decision in your flashlight purchase is likely to come down to the beam of light. Light output is measured in lumens; the more lumens, the more light. Flashlights start at around 20 lumens for weak keychain models, but exceed 3,000 for the most extreme handheld lights.
In addition to light output, you’ll need to choose the type of light. Most flashlights come down to a choice between throw lights and flood lights. Throw lights are best for shining a bright light over a long distance, so this is a good choice for many outdoor applications. Flood lights won’t reach as far, but they’ll illuminate a much broader area, which can make them more practical all-around.
Every Shape and Size
Size, weight and style vary widely in the crowded flashlight market, so you should be able to get whatever meets your need. But don’t assume that a bigger flashlight means a more powerful light -- even some keychain models can give you all the light you need.
Starting with keychain flashlights, the next step up is the pen light, followed by pocket-size lights and full-size lights. For hands-free illumination, you can also choose head-mounted lights.
Bells and Whistles
LEDs not only perform better in most applications, they can be more versatile, too. Among the flashlight features you might find are adjustable light scopes, adjustable lumens and color-changing light. Emergency flashlights may come with solar or hand-crank chargers, and rugged models may have waterproof and shock-proof designs. There are even self-defense flashlights that can emit a disorienting strobe light.
Whichever model you choose, be sure to keep at least one flashlight in an easily accessible area in your home. And keep those batteries fresh! You never know when you’ll be left in the dark, waiting on your trusted local electricians.